FOR THE SECOND weekend in a row, Ulster coach Mark Anscombe was left berating his team after the final whistle.
However, whereas last week there was at least another victory to cushion the blow of his words, Leinster last night sent Ulster back up the M1 with nothing.
“You can handle defeats,” said Anscombe with the tone of a broken man, “it’s the way you get beaten that’s disappointing. I thought we were pretty poor out there tonight.”
Ulster lost out 19 – 6 to their inter-provincial rivals with both scores coming via long-range Paddy Jackson penalties in the first half.
That the half-time deficit was only 10 – 6 could have been a source of optimism for the visiting fans. However, the second period only brought more of the same Leinster dominance and the final tally of 143 tackles to Leinster’s 59 was the damning statistic of Ulster’s inability to keep possession.
“Festive season and you like to think inter-pros are meant to be pretty important to the players, you wouldn’t have thought that was too important to our players out there tonight.”
He added: “You can make reasons and excuses. Everyone I suppose enjoyed Christmas at home and they’re still at home having Christmas [judging] by the way we performed today.”
Asked which area of his side’s performance had disappointed him most, Anscombe gave a wry grin as he turned the question back – ‘which didn’t’ – before continuing the same criticism which coloured the post-match reaction to the win over Zebre.
“We lacked energy, we lacked purpose. I don’t think we had the ball in the first half. That happens in a game, but it goes for five minutes, 10… maybe 15 – if you’ve got some attitude about you want to compete and be there, you’ll get some ball.
“You don’t go 40 minutes without the ball and just be content with that, but we were.”
Anscombe would eventually concede the push for a positive and credit Ulster’s defensive work in the 22, but he was soon back to shrugging off the missing personnel of Rory Best, Johann Muller, Nick Williams and Chris Henry as just another excuse for a poor display.
Turning it around
“For every name you’ve mentioned I suppose we could name one from Leinster as well,” said Anscombe.
“It was about us tonight, we were poor. Sometimes that happens and we’ve got to look at why it was. We don’t have a lot of time to turn it around, but we’re going to believe in ourselves and back ourselves to do that.”
Setting the record straight for Anscombe now means a “must-win” encounter with Munster, who are 10 points better off than Ulster as they make the trip north.
“We know when we get our team on the park we can play some decent footy. We’re a good team.
“We’ve got to take it on the chin that today wasn’t our day. We got beaten up, we got taken by a better team and we’ve got to find out why pretty quickly and turn this around and get excited about playing the leaders.”
- Additional reporting by Murray Kinsella.